The 5 Most Promising Careers in Sports


  • The sports industry is a booming business that generates billions of dollars each year.
  • Many sports-related careers promise high salaries and long-term job security.
  • Popular careers in sports include athletic director, trainer, and sports data analyst.

There's no question that sports is big business. In 2018, the global sports market was valued at $488.5 billion. By 2022, the market is projected to swell to $614 billion. This figure — which only accounts for gate revenue, media rights, sponsorships, and merchandising sales — doesn't even take into account other industries that profit from the sports market, such as healthcare and education.

Growth in the areas of sports science, fantasy sports, women's sports, legalized sports betting, youth club leagues, esports, online sports coverage, and general concerns about health and physical fitness are all expected to contribute to this industry's financial success.

Growth in areas like sports science, fantasy sports, women’s sports, and esports are all expected to contribute to the sports industry’s financial success.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we've witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of when sports are put on hold — not just for those who work in the industry, but for the fans and weekend athletes as well. And although the industry has suffered significant losses in revenue as a result of coronavirus-related shutdowns, it will undoubtedly bounce back stronger than ever, with even more jobs available for those looking to pursue a career in sports.

Whether you're an athlete or just passionate about sports, a career involving sports could be a great choice for you. In this realm, you'll find professional opportunities in related fields such as sports health, sports management, marketing, journalism, coaching and training, education, product development, advocacy, sports gaming, facilities management, sports law, and travel.

Below are five of the best sports-related careers you can pursue right now. All of these jobs are poised for growth in the coming years.

Top 5 Jobs in the Sports Industry

Exercise Physiologist

One of the fastest-growing occupations in sports and physical health is exercise physiologist. These professionals study the body's reactions to exercise and physical exertion in order to assess and improve patients' and clients' overall fitness levels.

Exercise physiologists study the body’s reactions to exercise and physical exertion.

Exercise physiologists may work with patients suffering from a variety of disabilities and chronic conditions, such as heart and lung disease, to develop and implement exercise programs designed to meet specific rehabilitation goals, like improving cardiovascular function.

Exercise physiologists may also work with athletes to come up with exercise programs that will enhance their level of conditioning, leading to performance improvements in strength, speed, flexibility, and endurance. Their work can help athletes with injury prevention and recovery, too. Some manufacturers of athletic and sports performance equipment work with exercise physiologists to design products.

Exercise physiologists typically have the following duties:

  • Assess patients' and clients' fitness levels using an array of health monitoring tools
  • Devise exercise programs to meet specific rehabilitation and/or training goals
  • Record progress and program effectiveness for interdisciplinary teams
  • Assist physical and occupational therapists with routine patient care
  • Ensure treatment plans are supported by standard practices
  • Check that department equipment is properly maintained, calibrated, and working
  • Reevaluate treatment plans as necessary
Place of Work

The majority of exercise physiologists work in hospitals, sports medicine clinics, rehabilitation facilities, athletic training facilities, professional sports facilities, colleges and universities, and other fitness facilities. Many are also self-employed.

Job Outlook

The outlook for exercise physiologists is strong, with job growth projected at 11% through 2029 — far faster than the average for all jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 19,800 people were employed as exercise physiologists in the U.S. in 2019.

Heightened interest in sports science technology, as well as growing concern about health and wellness, are expected to contribute to this occupation's growth.

The median annual salary for exercise physiologists is $49,170. The highest 10% of this group make more than $78,000 a year.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree in exercise physiology or a related field like exercise science or kinesiology is required. Certification by the American College of Sports Medicine as a registered clinical exercise physiologist or a certified exercise physiologist may also be required. Those interested in positions in cardiac rehabilitation generally need to earn a master's degree.

Students majoring in exercise physiology engage in both theoretical and hands-on activities in clinical and nonclinical settings. Academic coursework spans anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics, nutrition, exercise biochemistry, statistics, injury prevention and care, sports psychology, strength and conditioning, and other health-related areas.

Athletic Trainer

Another rewarding sports and health career you can pursue is athletic training. Athletic trainers diagnose, treat, and help prevent sports-related injuries, which may occur during training sessions, practices, games, and other sports-related events and activities. They are usually the first medical professional to render aid when a sports injury occurs.

Athletic trainers are licensed health professionals with extensive knowledge of sports medicine. Due to their somewhat misleading title, these workers are often confused for personal trainers or strength and conditioning coaches, who train, rather than treat, athletes. Working under the direction of physicians, athletic trainers are officially recognized as healthcare professionals by the American Medical Association.

Typical responsibilities of an athletic trainer include the following:

  • Attend sports games and practices
  • Educate athletes on injuries and injury prevention
  • Instruct injured athletes in rehabilitation exercises
  • Conduct on-field assessments of acute injuries and provide aid as needed
  • Evaluate and monitor athletes' chronic injuries and/or conditions
  • Maintain medical records and appropriate documentation
  • Coordinate regular and emergency medical care with outside physicians and allied health professionals
  • Administer and dispense medications (varies based on state requirements)
  • Maintain athletic training room inventory and equipment
  • Fit athletes with protective gear
  • Supervise rehabilitation progress and inform coaching staff when athlete may resume activities
  • Supervise and schedule physical examinations
  • Comply with local, state, and federal rules and regulations related to athletic training
  • Oversee drug testing
Place of Work

The majority of athletic trainers work for high school, collegiate, and professional sports teams and clubs; law enforcement; the military; hospitals; fitness centers; and rehabilitation clinics. Although athletic trainers primarily tend to athletes, they may assist other patients in need of orthopedic rehabilitative care.

Job Outlook

Athletic trainers have a strong employment outlook, with jobs projected to grow 16% between 2019 and 2029. Growing concern over sports-related injuries like concussions and ACL tears, along with advancements in sports medicine and sports science, are expected to contribute to this demand.

The median annual pay for athletic trainers is $48,440, though the top 10% make more than $73,000 a year.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree from an accredited athletic training program is the minimum requirement to become a certified athletic trainer. Popular majors for this career path include sports medicine and kinesiology.

Typical coursework includes subjects like anatomy, biology, nutrition, kinesiology, biomechanics, exercise physiology, statistics, athletic training, risk management and injury prevention, therapeutic modalities, pathology of injuries and illnesses, and first aid and emergency care.

In addition to a bachelor's degree, most states require aspiring athletic trainers to pass the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer certification exam. A number of athletic trainer jobs also require you to possess a master's degree.

Physical Education Teacher

If you have a passion for teaching and a love for sports, a career as a physical education teacher might be just what you're looking for. Physical education in American schools isn't what it used to be. Back in the day, you were lucky if you could survive a game of dodgeball.

Today, K-12 schools are adopting comprehensive school physical activity programs in order to provide young students with more opportunities to be physically active, make healthier choices, and create lifelong learning experiences.

Physical education teachers guide the physical development of students and instill key values such as teamwork and sportsmanship.

Gym teachers play an important role in shaping the lives of our country's youth. As educators, these teachers help guide the physical development of students, teach the importance of proper nutrition, pass on a love for sports, and instill key values such as teamwork and sportsmanship.

Physical education also plays an essential role in the development of students' mental and psychosocial health, which contributes to learning, as pointed out in research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Place of Work

Most physical education teachers work at public and private elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges. Some physical education teachers also coach one or more sports teams.

Job Outlook

Jobs for elementary school, middle school, and high school teachers are projected to grow 4% between 2019 and 2029. This employment growth is generally dependent on state and local government funding.

Physical education teachers make a median annual salary of $45,000, according to PayScale.

Educational Requirements

Most physical education teaching jobs require a bachelor's degree in physical education or a similar field, such as athletic training, health sciences, kinesiology, or education. State certification or licensing is also required.

Typical coursework for a degree in physical education includes subjects like fitness development and assessment, biomechanics, exercise science, injury prevention, anatomy, physiology, special education, kinesiology, exercise psychology, nutrition, first aid, community health, coaching theory, motor skills development, team sports, and pedagogy.

Athletic Director

Athletic directors are responsible for overseeing athletic departments at high schools, colleges, middle schools, and other organizations with sports programs. Directing is a fantastic career path for anyone with a love for amateur sports.

Athletic directors oversee athletic departments at schools and other organizations.

There are lots of moving parts when it comes to managing an athletic department. You need to hire the right coaches and staff, implement program policies, manage revenue and expenditures (including those involved with fundraising), oversee athletic program marketing and public relations, monitor student-athlete eligibility, plan game schedules, coordinate team travel, and ensure the entire sports program operates in a safe environment.

It takes a strong and experienced leader — with a significant amount of knowledge in the areas of education, sports management, and business administration — to be successful in this position. As an athletic director, you're not only managing an athletic program but also helping to shape the lives of young athletes for years to come.

Place of Work

Most athletic directors are employed with colleges, high schools, middle schools, school districts, youth clubs, sports camps, parks and recreation departments, and amateur sports clubs and organizations.

While these positions are typically administrative, with work conducted in an office environment, athletic directors may also spend a significant amount of time in the field to ensure sports programs run efficiently.

Job Outlook

Salaries vary widely depending on the size and scope of the athletic program. NCAA Division I and Division II schools, as well as larger school districts, can pay very well compared to smaller athletic programs. For example, the average athletic director compensation package at an FBS Division 1 college is $605,618.

According to PayScale, the median salary for a mid-career athletic director with 5-9 years of experience is $61,000.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree in sports management, sports science, sports medicine, athletic administration, physical education, or a related field is usually the minimum requirement to land a job as an athletic director or an assistant athletic director.

Most district-level and university positions require a master's degree in sports management, education administration, or athletic administration.

Sports Data Analyst / Statistician

If you want to be part of the sports world's statistical revolution, consider becoming a sports data analyst or statistician. Data is being used in all types of industries to improve outcomes through the use of predictive analytics. The sports industry is at the forefront of this revolution and shows no signs of slowing down.

Analytics has been around for some time in the sports world, particularly in major league baseball. But only within the last decade or so has the practice of using sophisticated analytics to scout players, predict game outcomes, improve game attendance, keep players healthy, and improve player performance evolved into a real science.

The sports industry is at the forefront of the statistical revolution and shows no signs of slowing down.

Sports analytics continues to grow as more teams across all levels of sports — from high school to the professional leagues — begin to realize the impact that analytics can have on outcomes. Each year, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference draws in a huge crowd of more than 3,500 sports industry professionals representing over 1,000 sports teams and organizations to discuss the increasing role of analytics in the global sports industry.

The growing popularity of fantasy sports leagues, sports network analysis programming, video gaming, sports betting sites, and sports blogging is also contributing heavily to the rising importance of sports analytics.

Place of Work

Most sports data analysts work with college and professional sports teams, data companies, media networks, websites, and gaming companies. Many also contract out their services or run their own blogs and podcasts.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects that jobs for statisticians will grow a whopping 33% through 2029. This demand is expected to come from the development of more sophisticated analytics technology and the growing reliance on analytics to make informed business decisions.

The median annual income for statisticians is $92,030, with the highest 10% earning more than $162,000 per year. According to the job search site ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for sports analytics jobs is $93,110, as of October 2020.

Educational Requirements

Most professional statisticians hold a master's degree in statistics, mathematics, or another quantitative field. Some entry-level positions will accept candidates with just a bachelor's degree. Students who want to be involved with sports statistics often double major or minor in a sports-related discipline, such as sports management.

Coursework normally includes subjects like probability, theoretical statistics, applied statistics, linear algebra, computer science, computer programming, algorithms, applied mathematics, data mining, machine learning, and economics.


Feature Image: Zinkevych / iStock / Getty Images Plus